2 gyms, 2 decisions: Why 2 Philly gym owners made different reopening decisions

Cherri Gregg
May 19, 2020 - 9:54 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  Two gyms in Philadelphia, wrestling with a mandate that requires all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania to remain closed, have come to opposing conclusions about whether and when to open up.

“The income dried up, and what we had saved up, we used to revamp the place,” said Maleek Jackson, owner of Maleek Jackson Fitness and Boxing Gym on North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties, which has been shut down for two months.

Jackson said many of his clients stopped their memberships and he wouldn’t take money from those who wanted to pay. Instead, he focused on giving his clients a future fitness home in the post-COVID-19 world.

“Me and my team, we thought, let’s try to give them a gift and see what we can do to the gym," he said, “and this is what we came up with.”

Plexiglass barriers now separate punching and speed bags.

“They have two purposes: first, to help protect each other from each other’s sweat,” Jackson said while giving a tour of the gym, “and to protect your space.”

They have reduced class sizes, added floor markings for spacing purposes, added signs reminding members to sanitize, and the gym will now adhere to a strict cleaning schedule.

“Every two hours, we gonna shut the gym down for a half hour and reclean everything,” said Jackson.

Jackson and his two trainers, Walt Moore and Hanif Nelson, helped test out the new set up. They say they will not open to the public until Pennsylvania lifts the closure order.

In Fishtown, Kristian Woodmansee came to a different decision.

“Even though it’s against the mandate, I’ll open up and deal with the consequences,” he told NBC10 Philadelphia on Monday. 

He opened his MMA gym, Logic Philadelphia, after making several safety modifications.  

“If I can operate classes safely and healthy, there should be no problem,” he said.

Those changes included modified classes without contact, reduced class sizes and increased cleaning and sanitization. 

Woodmansee told NBC10 that the decision was tough, but he had no choice if he wants to save his business and care for his wife and little girl. A choice, he said, he’ll hold to regardless of what happens.

“They can pass me any kind of citation or paperwork they have and I am still, until I am taken out of the place in handcuffs, not stopping,” he said.

When Jackson heard about what Woodmansee was doing, he said he understood. 

“Those guys have a right to feel how they feel,”Jackson said, “and I stand with them."

He just has made a different choice.

“I don’t think what they are doing is wrong,” said Jackson. “We are taking a more proactive approach.”

Under Pennsylvania’s reopening plan, gyms, hair salons, barbershops and other services cannot open until the region in question is in the final and/or green stages. 

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has not budged on the issue, saying in order to keep the spread of COVID-19 under control, such businesses must be some of the last to reopen.

For now, Jackson said they will follow the mandate.

“We are going to exercise patience and be ready for the future,” he said.

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